Actor/Producer/Immigrant Activist, Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
By: Frank Morris and Elvis Jocol Lara
Diane Guerrero is perhaps best known for her role as Maritza Ramos, an inmate in the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black — but it’s an opportunity she might have missed had she pursued other options.
“I love the arts. It’s sort of what made me the most happy and the language that I understood the most … However, when I got to school, I was heavily influenced by history and English and politics. I had a vision of maybe that’s where I wanted to go,” she said.
It wasn’t until later after college that she decided to pursue an acting career full throttle.
“I said I’m going to give myself a chance because it’s all I think about, it’s all I dream about,” Guerrero recalled. “I really just wanted to see how that worked for me as a person. I felt the happiest being an artist.”
Born in New Jersey to Colombian parents, Guerrero was raised in Boston and grew up in various neighborhoods, including Roslindale, Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.
“This city is so full of culture and life, and because we have some of the best public school systems and the best universities here, I think we got a lot of it,” she said. “I grew up in some of the not wealthiest neighborhoods, however I was still able to find different resources to educate myself or enhance my life that way.”
Guerrero, who also plays Lina on the CW show, Jane the Virgin, and had a recurring role on TBS’s Are We There Yet, recalled hopping on a bus at age 24 to move to New York City in pursuit of her acting dreams.
“I guess as a child of immigrants, you sort of live amongst dreams. I saw my parents just take that chance by being here … and I just felt like if I wanted to do something like follow my dreams, even though it may seem impossible, there is still a possibility,” she said.
It was through constant pursuit of acting roles — “I’ve always been like a little scavenger,” she said — that she eventually met her manager, and then one day, auditioned for Orange is the New Black.
“I just went for a regular audition and I just showed up. You got to show up,” she said. “Things may or may not happen, but I think more often than not, things happen.”
Many things have happened for this 30-year-old actress. Her role in Orange is the New Black led to two wins at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and now she will star in a CBS show based on her memoir, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, which recalls when her parents were deported when Guerrero was 14.
“In a country where we see mostly black and white, it’s hard to be a Latina in this business,” she said. “As a Latina artist or even just a brown artist, everything comes with a tinge of responsibility. Because there’s not so many of us out there, because we’ve grown up with very little to look up to, I think it’s especially important for us.”
“There’s no denying who we are, there’s no denying our part in this American story,” she said.
Outside the studios, Guerrero is involved in the national discussion around immigration reform. She was thrust into the middle of the discussion on the topic after her 2014 op/ed in the Los Angeles Times garnered national attention. She remains politically active as a speaker on the matter and work to influence millennials to be involved in the political discussion and register to vote.